Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Moveable Feast

On my recent Hedo vacation for New Years, I read "A Moveable Feast", Ernest Hemingway's memoirs from his days as a poor, young writer trying to survive in Paris during a 5 year period of 1921-26. This is a book he wrote around 30 years after the experience, during the late 1950's. In it, he recounts many tales about the artistic community which surrounded him in that era that helped to form the writer he later became when he matured.

Why did I select this book to read during my vacation? Well, over a year ago when I went to Fantasy Fest, one of the highlights of my trip was a tour through Papa's house in Key West; being immersed in his life and his times, it immediately reminded me of how much I enjoyed his writing 30 years ago, when I was introduced to it in college. After that tour, I immediately made a mental note to purchase some of the man's books and read them with the expectation that the many years with additional life experience and maturity (albeit modest), I would be viewing them with a deeper, richer appreciation than I had as a callow youth.

I was in no way prepared for what I found in this book -- which is my way of telling you how much I loved it. When you enjoy a book deeply, it's more than just the book itself, it's the experience of reading it -- and that's precisely what struck me so hard with "A Moveable Feast". Filled with many stories -- quite a few of them surprisingly and unexpectedly amusing -- about such literary luminaries as Gertrude Stein, Ford Madox Ford and especially F. Scott Fitzgerald, the book is a treasure trove of essays that shine a bright light on Hemingway himself. If you are looking for a good biography of the author, then "A Moveable Feast" provides all you ever really need to know about him as he provides extensive introspection into his soul and (one thing I particularly appreciated) his writing process.

A good trip -- which may or may not be a vacation -- is one that is both informative and transformative. Clearly, Hemingway's experience during this post-World War I era of Paris was exactly this and it is one reason why I recommend the book, especially if you read it during a trip -- whether the trip may be a Hedo vacation, a vacation elsewhere or an entirely different kind of trip. It may very well be the best trip report ever written -- and inspire you to want to write one of your own.


My favorite chapter was the one which Fitzgerald complained that Zelda called into question his cock size and needed an "objective" opinion from Hemingway. Priceless stuff!

The detail in which he describes the tastes of everything he ate and drank makes you curious about all of it and I could see using this as something of a gastronome's travel guide to France, in the event I ever manage to travel anywhere other than this continent.

There are a chain of bookstores throughout Manhattan with the name Shakespeare & Co.; they have been around for a long time, but I have no idea as to whether or not there is any real connection, or if the name is merely some kind of marketing gimmick. The ones in Manhattan are quite wonderful -- at least to me, anyway -- because they have an extensive collection of books of all types and lack the corporate mentality of, say, a B&N or Borders in that they don't have coffee shops to reek of "coolness". They simply provide a vast array of supply and places to sample them ... also -- especially given the locations in the East Village and the Upper West Side -- they are a great place to pick up women. Perhaps a better discussion for another time ...